Working with a group of experienced writers to craft a deep open world
Crafting the narrative of an open world is not an easy task, specially for a small indie team in which only two people work on the writing. On our latest update we explained how we are using Ink to help us manage all those dialogues, we would now like to unveil a small surprise in which we have been working on for a few months now ... ... (drum roll) ... ... a group of fifteen veteran writers are going to participate on the development of "A Place for the Unwilling"! They have worked on anthologies, published novels, translated books, wrote scripts for TV shows and even been nominated for a Goya. They're all Spanish, fantasy-lovers and familiar with Lovecraft.
After 6 months of planning we were able to set up a meeting with most of them in Madrid. We went out, had a nice dinner together, answered every question and then assigned each of them a random character. Before getting into details of how this collaboration is going to work, here's a short video featuring clips from their interviews.
The beginning of this crazy experiment
Around Christmas we were still debating a lot of new ideas for "A Place for the Unwilling". It was Ángel who talked about selecting a team of veteran writers who would help with the lore and the character design. They needed to be experienced, had worked as part of a team in the past, be suitable for the setting and up for such a task. It's easy to see that just putting the whole team together took us several months.
We wouldn't dare to do anything like this in another project, but "A Place for the Unwilling" is an open world game in which two people are trying to speak for a whole city, in this particular case a choir of voices makes a lot of sense, so we went ahead and decided to give it a try.
They won't be writing dialogues or directly altering the plot, but working on the background of each character in the cast. They'll also write articles and books that players will be able to find and read in the game, these will complete the lore in many ways and talk about more mundane things. Every writer will get a small intro for their characters that should serve as a starting point, besides a more in-depth explanation of the lore.
(both writers and developers having dinner together)
Explaining the work process
Most of the writers have a lot of experience working together on anthologies and collaborative projects and, writing for "A Place for the Unwilling" is not very different from that. They have deadlines and write raw text, since they're not doing any dialogues it's not necessary for them to learn how ink, or the rest of the engine, works.
We try to set everything up but, at the same time, give them enough freedom to come up with unique ideas. We want players to be able to find personal letters from other citizens, technical books or even tales for kids. Everything in this project focuses on creating a living space in which to get immersed, and we feel these details will add a lot of value to the mix.
On a previous update we explained the difficulties of creating a whole set of characters while trying to give a different personality to each of them. With the help of these writers we'll make sure every character in the game feels even deeper and more interesting. Once again, we set some restrictions to make sure the style is as similar as possible and the core development team is still in charge of every piece of dialogue in the game.
We are really excited about this collaboration, not many indie teams are lucky enough to have such an amazing team of talented writers to work with, and who knows? We might not work on another project as suitable for this initiative as "A Place for the Unwilling". We're sure their work will be top-notch and they can't wait to get out of their comfort zone and experience the adventure of working on a game for the very first time.
Planning everything for months, without being able to share it was pretty hard for us, but today we finally got to officially announce it. We just hope you find this news as exciting as we do. We'll keep publishing new updates every two weeks, like we've doing for a long time now, and we'll certainly give you more details about how is it to work with a team of writers, but feel free to leave a comment or send us an email. We are also always around twitter!
We decided to upload an uncut version of the interviews to Youtube for those of you who want to know more. Stay tuned for future updates!